thumbnail of New aspects of language; Words
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
New aspects of language using a language is so much a part of our everyday lives that we do not realize just how complex an activity it is. Is the science responsible for investigating this activity we take so much for granted. During this series some of the tools and methods used by linguists to study the complexities of language will be demonstrated. The series is prepared and narrated by Dr. Frankel associate professor of English and Linguistics at George Peabody college for teachers in today's program. Mike Ford and Tom Parsons graduate students in English studying linguistics. Dr. Frankel in a discussion of words. Today we're going to talk about two words. A lot comes to mind when you hear this website. What is the first thing you would think of when you hear the word the word. For instance my first question you have to ask yourself is why does it work
and everybody you know is very good news. That's right. So to save Chelsea money the first thing you come to think of is the possible definition of the term that's what you get. OK if you think of words on a page. Princeps when you think of a unit which has some space before and some space off the right as the minimal unit you may think of something else again. You may think of how did words come about in the first place. You may think of the history of needing of a certain item or you may think of the history of structure of a certain item in this connection we will have to point to some interrelationship between two branches of the signs intimately connected with words. These two branches are semantics and etymology I have as these are not the only two involved. When we talk about the study of words the two others involved will be historical
linguistics and lexicon AJ because once you have a group of words and you know something about them you may want to store them. So if you want to store them you put them in a dictionary usually. So these four branches struggling with sticks to Mantik etymology and Lasik ology have to be considered when we talk about words. Let me just say a word about the difference between semantics and etymology before you go into the discussion. So many takes deals almost exclusively but it is explicitly with meaning with the question how can the meaning of a word be explained. How can it be structured. How can it be related to the meaning of other words. This may be done soon chronically that means purely on a contemporary basis and it may be done historically or diet chronically. The question then as how has the meaning of a certain word developed over the years many words have
very interesting histories. I'm afraid we cannot talk about too many today because we want to encompass as much as we can in today's discussion but we shall give some examples. It's particularly semantics has in reason linguistic work become very much more important again than it used to be for a long time anyway. What is the definition of a word. How would you define it. What you know we need only what it would is Tom and I said give me a word. Well OK that's one yes. Do you know what I would think that's OK. I'm very good excellent. You know really this thing isn't yours after that. So you would immediately know how many words a sentence contains wouldn't you or would you have any doubt. Usually I'm not usually the native speaker knows what the word is but I ask him to
define it. It would be almost impossible. Many people simply don't believe that it is so difficult to define the words the words are really the known systemic another systematic part of the language. They are not as easily built into the structure as grammatical units for instance. This is true in particular for the free forms which is the uninflected forms or the forms of the chromatic affixes. Some people have to find words as the minimal free form with a minimum free form that's a broom Fillion definition but is not satisfactory. Why is it not satisfactory I'll give you just one example and I ask you whether you agree with me. Mike isn't one ism two ism's three isms we live by is that a word ism in modern English. Well it's not a word in the sense that we normally think of a word that I may hasten I run doesn't it.
Yes it does. It behaves like money pays exactly like any other. All right you say for my life one ism is not enough I live by two or three isms behaves like the US and the other not. Instead of principle use the web as a no. What about the combined forms combination of communism fascism and so on. If you cut the ism of what remains as commun and flashy these words in an English NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. But I would use is coming as a compound No you would he would say ism is a suffix. Well it doesn't get its meaning until it's connected with another word that's so if you let me go if you say I have two wisdoms I live by. Obviously you've got a meaning. Sure sure in that independent meaning to everyone is then what you say. Well there are several varieties of isms. Yes of course. Sure sure there are many That's why you can count them that's why it's a count noun.
Yes but haven't you given meaning when you say you know I have two isms I live by. Yes context gives its meaning in that q in a in this in a certain sense of the word oppose everything you get from from context which doesn't have an unambiguous definition. All I'm trying to show as that of the borderline between a suffix communism fascism and so on a compound word and an independent free word is sometimes extremely difficult to draw. Therefore the definition that it's the minimum free form is simply not satisfactory in most languages which can be defined for logically or not in English. Unfortunately but in some languages they can be defined positively or negatively. What do you mean. Positively means in Hungary and for instance every word is stressed on the first so it has initial stress. So when ever you listen to Hungary and you come to a stress you know it is the first syllable of a new word or the previous That was the last syllable of the
previous word I mean you can cut the speech stream into words almost unambiguous like there's a theoretical it doesn't quite work that way. In German and Turkish For instance you have no voice to stop us. Finally so negatively you always know if you hear the voice Stop it cannot be the end of a word. I was is not reversible unfortunately because the unvoiced stops occur both mediately initially and finally. So this is no definitive definition. Well that's about all we can say about it it's very unsatisfactory but that's what happened in modern linguistics. Do you have to add something right there. Is there anything in English that there would be so simple as in Hungary you know not a thought of all you can do in English you can speak about a certain set of suffixes which is always fun but could you say that we poets you know in order to stand or where you know you couldn't and in fact if you just listen to a foreign
language. And would you be able to find out where that ends of words if you don't know the language. Never know actually you couldn't. Only in your own language do you think it's absolutely an ambiguous everybody knows where a word ends but in fact the speech stream is a continuum and there's no way of telling where where it begins and where it world ends. Now what that would be is the next question of interest. What do you think what would a person ask him what Origins or what do you think would be of interest when you hear the word. Well if they can't be separated how did they start. OK very good how did it come apart in the first practice that's right. If we can define them. Can we say something about how they came about. Well if you ask the questions how did words come about. Yeah practically asking the question how did language come about isn't that so. Well again as in the previous instance I must admit ignorance. I wasn't around when people began to speak a million years ago and I
simply don't know. We have documentary evidence which is about 6000 years old that's only a drop in the bucket. So we simply don't know. What about there are a couple of interesting theories. Some people have theorized and have tried to a war of words out of something which you may call an amount of pleasure. What does that mean. Well the words imitate the sounds they are talking about. Yes that's right. Now unfortunately it turns out that even the onomatopoeia and different languages are not identical. How for instance would we say is let's is the sound of a train in English. What the. But do children usually drugs drug drug charge something like you actually do. Ok fine here we have two which are similar but not identical in Korean For instance the sound for a train is to keep Mark to Bach to Bach something different you know way I mean the same trying to says you know it's apparently a slow train.
Perhaps not. Electrical yeah yeah whatever it is it sounds somewhat different yeah. It is similar but not the same. What does the rooster or the cock do in English. Cockatoo. Yes ok called the Little Brothers he say in German you know. So you think you know he which again is similar but not identical. So we cannot possibly say that the origin of words is on a model but I think only. Let me ask you another of these sounds here and let's see whether you can tell me what it really demonstrates it's Cheney guessed wrong gosh Ching Gaspar gosh you don't know the language it was the sound for something you know very well you would say ding dong. That's a bell that's the best word. What do you think yeah and then Gary and then gaze upon God saying gay Spong gosh here you go you say there are too many difference to make that the origin of
all languages. Now four theories one is the ding dong theory that's the one we have just been talking about. We see that it's not entirely reliable. The second theory is the bar while theory. Well what would that be imitating animal sounds. I mean taking animal sounds That's correct. We also have already talked about that when we mentioned the rooster and we may mention the dog right. What's that sound a dog would produce an English bower. Well right here Berlitz have have just not exactly the same. So and the dogs they don't speak English doggies and French Dobies and German doggies and so on that they make the same sound all over the world that's simply a matter of how you perceive it. Well the third theory and this year is the theory which we're going to put you in a moment but what is it. It's a matter of flimsy a theory
as the rich contends that when you are stimulated you automatically have your reaction accompanied by some kind of a sound. So for instance of a stick a needle into you you will automatically say ouch and other similar reactions which form the basis of language. However again this is not true for all languages. You will say ouch. A Frenchman will say something like i.e. which is not the same again. Then we have the Yum-Yum theory which has nothing to do with the fact that it's tasteful. What does it mean. Well it is based on a physicists idea that men react by a gesture to external stimuli and such gestures can be produced or movements can be produced by any part of the body which as you move about among these parts of the body we have of course what's the most moving a muscle body all the time you
know the tongue. And so let me react automatically to the movement of the song to produce some kind of a sound which would form the basis for words. Well these are all beautiful theories but they are as far as we can tell that at least not proved not to say untrue. So we have to leave this to conject us what similar questions can be try to answer 100 we establish the meaning of words. All right how do you establish the meaning of words it's very good in fact in this connection you may ask the question which was the first word class did not proceed verbs over a pretty nouns or what happened. Well again we must say of course we don't exactly know. We can say one thing that as long as there were only some directional groans we cannot speak about knowledge of the rose because this dichotomy is based on a contrast. If we have if we have two one is anon and one is a verb you can talk about nouns and verbs
as long as we have only one. We cannot really say whether it's one or the other. In fact some of the best linguistic minds have tried to establish whether nouns preceded verbs of those preceded nouns and but was added to it's have a very ardent defenders and they're very interesting papers on that but nobody really knows. You said how do we know what words mean. You are really asking the question of the arbitrary us off was the reference to the reference. Again an age old question. The Greeks began to discover that fizzes. That means is there a natural connection between the word and its reference. Or theists. Which means are they arbitrary. Most We have discussed that before in another program and we have found that arbitrary. Now there must be some interesting new words don't just think so yes. Well what bothers me at this point though is how are you. If we create a new word. Yeah and if we've already granted the fact that there are military do we have any
rules we use for the creation of new words. Well this is really a good question do we have rules by which we create new words in the same fashion in which our ancestors somewhere in the case created the first words. Well. Why do you think Tom how would you create a new word let's say you invented something and you needed a new word. Where would you take it from. Well I would try to include in the new word some something that would help to describe or have some connection with the think I'm naming. Alright so you would probably do what many people do if you were to take some kind of a Latin or Greek root which hasn't been utilized yet and which has a meaning close to what you're trying to say. That's so this case some of these possibilities to create new words. Well one for instance to assign new meanings to old words that are comparatively simple and you don't have to think of a new combination of sounds. Take an example like tank. Almost everybody now when hearing the word things things are some
kind of a drug or not. Nothing of the pool the water pool which it originally was in India by the way the word juggernaut itself is of Sanskrit origin just as the tank is of Indian origin. So this is a transfer of meaning. We use parts of foreign words. That's an interesting example and use the word bus. You know it comes from the Latin on the bus which means for everybody. Now the basis is ominous right. And the bliss is what. What kind of a what kind of a grammatical form is a suffix itself excuse. Right it's the dative plural for masculine nuns so it has been cut off and has in english been made into a noun it is not a suffix ing by any stretch of the imagination you have 1 bus 2 busses you bus people your end bus tour de bus to do all kinds of things but you don't own the bus you say you may use on the bus and as a noun but not as a verb right you can say I d only bust so that my English has really used what amounts to a Latin affix as a new
word. OK new combinations. Let's talk about linguistics. Let's have some words some commercial linguistics All right. He got funny right. Well the idea right from Greek roots. A phone phone is a voice. Funny as a sound fun along the same lines we have morphemes and morphemic seams and Simmy behavior Eames. And if you remake the image Enos and now this is an image to make the words you make an edit you have become independent words and the language you know what they stand for what is education what is any image as anything which is contrasted west TX so if you have something which on the front a logical level to make when they are phonemes of the morphological evidence the make them morphemes. If it's attic it means it is important in its detailed analysis but it is not contrastive.
Pike has introduced these words into the English language and the word linguist itself undergone a change a slight change of meaning I can remember when I went to polyglot. Yeah yeah that's true but I meant it was true that you point to another interesting area where words have in the in general usage been overweight a wide range but in professional use it has become of a very narrow range and only one specific kind of thing or once a kind of person. Foreign words have been adopted like kindergarten. Sputnik and calls it all right. Which means from that or the fifth way of creating words by blends. You know what that means. Take a couple of pages of the diction and put them in a blender. That's like bronze. So you know I mean cycle control and snort and so on. No I did actually true that weird engineering is a very interesting aspect of linguistics but it has been somewhat neglected because it doesn't have the predictive structural power which
grandma has. Well I think we should go to another area namely etymology which which comes first to mind when we talk about him ology What would you be interested in my right. The first thing that comes to my mind yeah as long as you ask the question that we have to hear Story of the meanings that we're doing you know for us of course but there are different aspects of that. Some of very serious aspects and while some are very humorous aspects Let's take some of the human aspects first OK let's talk about some of it just call it folk etymology. Yeah. Folk etymology is a translation from the German folk etymology and it was used in German linguistic circles before it was used in English in Western circles. Let me just give you a few brief examples because our time starts to run up. Take sparrowgrass. Which is some kind of deformation of asparagus. It has nothing to do with sparrows. It has something to do with some dialectal
pronunciations of the West Sparrow take gooseberry which are not various which bees eat despite the fact that it's sound that way but it is really a word which comes from French go I say. And so English dialects are still called it goes a little I don't know in which parish dialect. Take the Welsh rabbit. Which one is that what is it. It's Welsh rare bit only by folk transitional by force if you're looking to become a rabbit. Now let's look at my one word which is of a reversed order. Let's look at the beef eater. You know the beef eaters. Oh that has something to do with English guards. Yes that's correct. Has something to do with the you want extraordinary of the guards on duty at the Tower of London. It's a kind of you know Oh I grant you your order number. Yeah yeah. But anyway people perhaps for that reason
have been looking for friends as your mother to be fake yeah or something of the sort but it isn't. It simply was called beef eater because believe it or not people ate much beef. These people were known allegedly at least for having an enormous appetite for being so they called beef eaters. Not only the ordinary folks have produced strange etymologists who has had but your strange etymologies. Well I imagine with all the processes involved. Yeah. Scholars that's quite right. Yes even scholars have produced a range of them other just let me just give you one single example. The word posthumous. It is spelled p o s t h u m or yes correct the age as the results a product of a wrong time or energy. Scholars assume that it meant the one after possed father has been put underground. Who knows but it does mean that at all. It is this you put the tip of the whip possed possed post Syria pasta must and I mean simply the last
born of that particular father. This and I many other examples of scholarly mistakes. Well we have another kind of inhumanity which is quite amusing Do you know what I'm referring to all medieval at the moment. Yes that's correct the etymology before the time of the etymologists. That's correct in medieval times people simply didn't know enough. They were not equipped to deal with etymology as rigorously as modern linguistics so they had to modify fancifully instead. The most famous etymologies are the ones which are taken from opposites. Just one example it is very well known the Latin Bel means what Mike Moore That's correct that in Bellows means one word like. No it means beautiful. Oh. Thank you. So the bedroom is called Belem in that inn meaning war because war is not repeat not beautiful battles now. So in fact the word bellum as related as much as
to are you a fight of two people. Now I guess that you have a good point to talk for a moment about the etymology etymology don't you think we ought that to the public. Well the etymology of etymology is the following in Greek. If you must means true. So etymology is the true or real meaning of a word which ties in very nicely what we have just been saying by benefit everyone. Then there is the term for a word which constitutes the original form from which all other forms where you rhyme for English. Very often the action one comes from the Indo-European for. Now there are some of the aspects of culture which we can learn about from etymology why. Well this would be a good approach to history through this year. When I tell quite a bit about the people and what they consider important living like and so on. Yes that's correct. Now let's take one example and this is some money and let's
see a few words which somebody wrote about money and it's a modern GI and what we can learn from it about India European history. He says the following is the chief standard of Mallya in the India Rypien period and in the history of the India people speaking peoples before the introduction of actual money based on Cornish was cattle in the old sense livestock. This is amply attested for the several peoples by direct references and is also reflected in the interchange of cattle as property or money in an inheritance. In European group and some others and so on he goes under explaining that some of the words which in various Indian languages mean money originally meant either property or cattle or a rain or a nail or a cattle. Certain cattle certain things which were used for box rank. Now there is one aspect of etymology which I would like to
mention just briefly and this in connection with the question What has it in modesty contributed general linguistics or what has generally Western contributed to the more logic we spoke just a while ago about the rigor of modern linguistics and can it be applied to etymology. Well at least one linguist molecule has contributed some thing to with the two neglected areas of modern linguistics namely etymology entire polity and has tried to bridge them by writing a paper on the Thai policy of etymological studies. Not a apology of the approach to him. Not a typo logy of etymological studies how can one subdivided all the studies which exist in two categories. And he has written a classification by scope a classification by material a classification by degree of complexity and about the connection between etymology and general linguistics.
We only have just a few seconds left to give you an idea of what he has been doing and just have one paragraph perhaps read in order to show you what his idea was. Mike why don't you just give us a few words from the study. He says quote The classification here essayed refers strictly to approaches not to solutions that that come up for mention are quoted exclusively for the sake of technique involved in identifying them. Unless the opposite is stated the bases do not bear any stamp of approval or acceptance beyond a tacit acknowledgement of respectability which means rights which means that etymology when treated along lines of modern linguistics is again just as semantics. The respectable part of work in
today's program. Mike Ford and Tom park's graduate students in English studying linguistics join Dr. Frankel in a discussion of words. Next week the program will be linguistic theory new aspects of languages prepared and narrated by Dr GERD Franco associate professor of English and Linguistics at George Peabody college for teachers and is produced in the studios of W. PLM. This is Richard Waddell speaking. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
New aspects of language
Producing Organization
Nashville Public Radio
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-np1wjk8x).
Series Description
For series info, see Item 3622. This prog.: Words
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Producing Organization: WPLN
Producing Organization: Nashville Public Radio
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-36-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:47
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “New aspects of language; Words,” 1968-11-08, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 20, 2024,
MLA: “New aspects of language; Words.” 1968-11-08. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 20, 2024. <>.
APA: New aspects of language; Words. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from